Introducing the Charge RC: Interview with Under Armour’s Dave Dombrow

Under Armour is best known for their compression apparel line which, to put it simply, redefined how clothes fit and perform with the body.  Over the last couple of years they’ve begun introducing more and more footwear into the sporting goods industry.  By keeping the DNA of their apparel (performance fit) in mind, their footwear has made some noise.  Introducing the Under Armour Charge RC, Under Armour’s most advanced running shoe to date.

To get an inside look at the Under Armour Charge RC we talked with Dave Dombrow, Under Armour’s Creative Director of Footwear.

 The Charge RC appears to be a departure from previous UA running shoes.  Can you tell us what sparked the idea for this shoe?

It all started with our DNA.  Under Armour’s DNA goes back to Apparel and the idea of redefining Performance Fit.  With this shoe we looked at our Apparel DNA and wanted to redefine Performance Fit in Footwear from an Apparel point of view.  With this in mind we created a unique two piece construction that provided an apparel sensibility and fit in the forefoot with secure lockdown in the midfoot and heel. This was really the genesis of the project.

The Charge RC borrows from some of UA’s apparel technologies.  Can you describe how they were infused and function in the Charge RC?

Three key apparel technologies helped drive the design of the Charge RC.  First off we looked at how zonal compression worked in our apparel and how we could apply it in footwear.  With the Charge RC we have designed zonal compression into the midfoot of the shoe.  This provides a secure feeling around the foot while still giving the forefoot room to move.  The second technology was the use of our apparel Heatgear material.  This material is lightweight and wicks moisture.  Lastly, we incorporated our MPZ technology.  MPZ stands for modular protection zones.  In footwear the MPZ allowed us to replace traditional footwear practices and offer a new solution for toe protection and lace bite.

UA has incorporated a concept called EVOnatomy into the design of the Charge RC; can you describe what this means to the design and the function of the shoe?

The definition of EVOnatomy….”Evolving anatomy for optimum performance.”  The key takeaway is the word “evolving.” Every brand is looking at mimicking the human anatomy but we asked ourselves if this was the only and best solution.  For example, a tortoise offers better protection, a gecko offers better traction and composites offer better energy return.  Why not look at the best of everything around us and hybrid it all together for the optimum solution.  With the Charge RC we did just that…two clear examples which you can see… we looked at a grasshopper’s articulating exoskeleton which helped drive our unique construction and we looked at the energy return from composites which drove the construction of our energy plate.

There’s been a strong gravitation in the running industry towards lighter, faster, more low-profile shoes.   Can you speak to where the Charge RC is positioned, and who you perceive as the ‘ideal’ runner for this shoe?

The Charge RC is a lightweight running shoe that is designed for speed and being up on your toes.  A true go fast shoe.  With only a 6mm rise in the last it sits in between a barefoot and a traditional runner.  With it’s unique two piece construction coupled with a high energy return bottom, the ideal runner for this shoe wants a responsive shoe which enhances the pace.

Under Armour is a performance-driven brand, and some of your best-known UA athletes contributed to the development of the Charge RC; can you talk about that process and how it influenced the design and function of the shoe?

Everything we do at Under Armour starts with making the athlete better.  The team that worked on the Charge RC and wear tested the shoe consisted of runners and athletes at every level.  From the running side we had everyone from weekend warriors to 2:20 marathoners on staff testing this shoe.  The entire process was very organic which allowed for constant performance tweaks and fine tuning.  The team obsessed over performance at every stage.  Interestingly though, we had a number of our athletes outside of running (Cam Newton, Brandon Jennings, etc…) respond to the innovative style of the shoe.

How does the process of designing a new shoe like the Charge RC differ from simply updating an existing shoe?

In our eyes the Charge RC is a true original….We were not trying to anniversary a past design or mimic an existing construction. This shoe represents what happens when you take learnings from Apparel and apply them in Footwear.  Beginning from this point of view allowed us the freedom to chart our own course and challenge the status quo.

Did the Charge RC take a departure from the original concept, or is the finished product close to ‘the idea’?

Very close to the original idea.  We like to say….”The Fit that changed everything…now available for your feet”

The Charge RC represents a major launch for Under Armour Running; what’s next for 2012 and beyond?

As we move into 2012 you will see UA’s offering expand in the lightweight category. However, we will also look to start driving additional silos and provide solutions for our growing consumer base. It’s an exciting beginning for Under Armour running… but it’s just the beginning.

City Sports is one of a few select retailers to launch the Mens and Womens UA Charge RC on October 1st, 2011.  Check out photos from the exclusive launch party at the City Sports in Rockefeller Center!

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